I don’t know how many times I have heard “San Francisco looks like Istanbul! You should go see!” Of course this wasn’t the only reason for me to take a 7-hour-long flight to the city: Its colorful outlook, modern and accepting attitude, diversity and vibrancy made me desperately want to see this pretty city. When my mom gave me this trip as a present for my 36th birthday, I was speechless! Not only was I going to see this wonderful city, but also I was going to visit my best friend and her lovely kids who live in Lafayette, SF.
As far as the negative things we know about the city, we all know SF is also famous for its outrageously high housing costs, and a large number of homeless population. But I have also discovered two more things that I don’t like about San Francisco: hills and tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed (almost) every moment I spent there, but would I want to live there? I don’t think so. I’m really happy in Boston, thanks.
Before I started writing this blog, I made a cup of freshly brewed earl grey tea and I took this photo below just to show you my San Francisco souvenir: my colorful and lovely mug which will accompany me while I’m writing! Enjoy reading!
Mostly wide streets are full of people walking to work, going shopping or doing touristy things. The architecture is a mixture: One moment you see a wonderful historical building with sometimes Spanish, sometimes Victorian, and sometimes French style. Then you see modern and boring homes. Some districts are very interesting and some are average like in any big city. One thing to consider before you go to SF is the anumber of hills. On the map, places look close to each other but it takes forever to walk from A to B due to steep hills on the way.
Speaking of hills, I should tell you about my Lombard Street experience. It was PACKED with tourists. In order to get a good picture I saw two people at different times almost got hit by a car. Known as the ‘crookedest street’ in the world, Lombard street has sharp turns. Thankfully cars are moving slowly because I saw some crazy people who let their little kids go and play in the middle of the street. There is no way for the car to see the kid before it makes its turn due to tall bushes on the side of the street. Anyway, I climbed 253 steps up and 249 steps down and I should admit it was a good exercise in the summer heat!
Absolutely beautiful… The view of the bridge, and the view of the city from the bridge both are absolutely amazing. This was the first place where I felt like “Hmm… This reminds me of Istanbul now”. The calm, endless looking ocean divides the lands graciously. I think the red color for the bridge was a smart idea (originally it was going to be painted black and yellow stripes like Maya the bee-Glad they changed that haha) because it brings the blue and green together very well. We were walking on the bridge with baby steps because we were walking with a slow moving group of tourists like a pack of zombies from Walking Dead. They were walking pretty carelessly like zombies as well. I don’t know how many times I had to give the evil look.
Let’s talk about my favorite thing! Food!
San Francisco, like Boston, is famous for its sea food. As a person who is not fond of sea food much, this was a disappointment. But, I had two remarkable experiences: The first one was the Irish coffee and awesome breakfast at Buena Vista and the other one was the clam chowder soup in Boudin Bakery. Boudin was like a bread museum! They make breads in different animal shapes and exhibit them on shelves. I’m on KETO, a kind of low carb diet, so I couldn’t enjoy the delicious alligator bread but if one of you do, please let me know how it tastes! Buena Vista apparently was the first place to bring the Irish Coffee to the USA. It is really hard to find a spot (Guess why? Yes! Tourists!) so I highly recommend you to go there as early as possible.
Oh I almost forgot! The tamales I ate in Sausalito was one of the BEST!
Alcatraz was used to be a high security federal prison where notorious criminals were held. Because it was located on an island, it would make it impossible for the prisoners to break out. I had mixed feelings walking in the aisles of the prison. Maybe the audio tour is responsible for putting me in that mood as well. I felt the despair, anger, loneliness and mental challenges. The interesting details to take from that was the escape attempts. The prisoners digged holes with a spoon they stole from the dining hall and a drill they improvised from motor of a purloined vacuum cleaner. In an amazing way they created dummy heads looking like themselves by using soap, concrete powder, hair stolen from the barbershop and put these in their beds right before escaping so that the guards wouldn’t understand they were gone at least for a while! So creative! Wow! They left Alcatraz with an inflated raft but it is believed that there is no way they could have made it through.
There are also the dark cells in which the ‘naughty’ criminals are imprisoned for months and years sometimes… In pitch darkness…
Also, the courtyard for the breaktime had a gorgeous view and I thought “Is this a prize for the criminals instead of punishment?” But then the guide said it was intentional: Seeing freedom, the vibrant city that close but not being able to have it was the punishment. Apparently the wind brings the sound of the joyful city especially during the holidays which would become a torture for the prisoners.
When you get outside and see the view from house that used to be the prison warden’s, the beauty of the city of San Francisco and the ocean mesmerizes you. This is why I want to use bigger size photos here. Below you will see the warden’s house, which is pretty much destroyed and has become a host to different kinds of plant species.
Not seals! Haha. Keep confusing the two. In Pier 39, together with lovely dead fish smells (!), you get to watch these interesting animals resting and talking and maybe, singing? Although most of the time they sounded angry to me, definitely it is something to see while in San Francisco!
Pier 39 and Sea Lions
Beautiful district with absolutely amazing murals. The street art was everywhere! energetic, evolving neighborhood with Latino roots and a hipster vibe. All the street art we saw had a political message in Latino world. I wish there were someone with us to explain the meanings of all. They also apparently make the best burritos and tacos in town. Unfortunately were were too full to eat!
One of the most important things for me when I visit somewhere is to go to a local coffee shop and try their black coffee. My mom and I went into Philz Cafe in Mission and it was so hipster! We chatted with the young couple who were playing chess in front of us (I think we distracted them a little bit, sorry!) and the young man who was sitting right next to us with long brown hair and John Lennon glasses. He was reading a thick book. Basically we bothered everyone in that coffee shop, we were feeling chatty! What attracted my attention was their number one selling coffee: Tantalizing Turkish brew!
This lovely coastal town reminded me so much of the Princess islands in Istanbul. I was so happy to see finally cafes and restaurants located right by the sea in the US. Yet again, it was so hard to walk at a normal pace since tourists were in line in front of the local stores, some were stopping right in the middle of the side walk to take pictures, etc. Beautiful scenery, nice local people and summer vacation vibe. I loved it!
I had a love and hate relationship with SF cable cars. I think if I could go back in time, the only thing I would change in my trip would be going from Union Square (south) up to Fisherman Wharf (north)-where we stayed. When we took the cable car from north to south the line was not bad at all. We waited only for about 5-7 minutes. But for an 8-minute-long trip from south to north, we waited for… Are you ready?… We waited for exactly 1 hour and 23 minutes!!! Unbelieavable! My suggestion to visitors is don’t even try south-north bound, it is a complete waste of time.
Believe it or Not Museum
Because the interesting places to see is fairly apart from each other in this city, unfortunately we didn’t get to go to all the places we had planned to see. The evening before we left SF, with a last minute decision we decided to see a museum near our hotel at Fisherman Wharf “Believe it or Not” (By the way we found a Groupon deal with a $5 discount, just FYI) We weren’t expecting much, we were just going to kill some time there but, actually, it was a lot of fun! There were so many interesting things to see. The creator of the museum had a good sense of humor, as well. If you go, you will understand what I mean. From dinosaur feet to bug snacks, from an Egyptian mummy head brought from Turkey to here (Why?) from interesting and/or weird artifacts to a bridal gown made out of toilet paper, you can find anything here! The mirror maze in the end was also a fun surprise!
PS. Did you know when Charles Alton Ellis designed the Golden Gate Bridge, he wasn’t an engineer yet?
Mirror maze fun
The Other Colors of San Francisco
My 4 days of stay wasn’t enough but I got a very good gist of San Francisco. Here I want to share some more city details that I captured during my visit. I should say I didn’t fall in love with the city, but I can see why a lot of people find it charming!!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post! See you soon in another adventure!